AI in Classrooms: Navigating the Next Frontier in Education

Posted by Lauren Ambrosio on June 21, 2023

Artificial intelligence (AI) is fundamentally transforming the education landscape in the United States. With applications like ChatGPT and other generative AI, a new era is dawning where classrooms and curriculums could be enriched and diversified. However, the introduction of AI in education has also sparked concerns about academic integrity and the authenticity of learning.

high school students working independently on laptops.

What is the future of AI in education?

Despite the challenges, it is impossible to overstate the benefits of integrating AI into the learning experience. AI models, with their student interaction simulations, can be leveraged as "practice students" for new teachers. As Dr. Andy Shean, Chief Learning Officer at Penn Foster Group points out, adopting AI might also inspire a transformation in what we prioritize in our learning experiences, focusing more on fostering critical thinking and creativity. AI could also enhance learning without the fear of judgment. As Ran Liu, chief AI scientist at Amira Learning, suggested, AI interfaces can offer constructive feedback without causing self-consciousness as a human's response might.


While there may be some concern about relying on AI, the intersection of education and technology can ultimately provide more benefits than downsides such as

  1. Increased Adaptive Learning: AI-powered adaptive learning platforms will continue to evolve, tailoring educational content to individual students' learning speed and style.
  2. Data-Driven Insights: AI could help teachers track students' progress more accurately and efficiently, offering insights that might otherwise be difficult to obtain.
  3. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality: VR/AR technologies combined with AI could provide immersive educational experiences that engage students more effectively.
  4. Predictive Analytics: With the help of AI, educational institutions can use predictive analytics to identify students at risk of dropping out or those who might struggle academically, allowing interventions to be implemented early on.
  5. Enhanced Accessibility: AI could enable more inclusive learning experiences by providing personalized support for students with disabilities or those who speak different languages.


Read more: Best Practices to Help Learners Succeed


Can AI replace a traditional educational experience?

AI will not replace human educators but rather enhance the learning experience. It's essential to recognize that AI is a tool, a means to an end, not an end in itself. Pedagogical goals should drive AI use and not technology for technology's sake.


Dr. Shean asserts, "Educators should consider the many ways they can leverage ChatGPT and AI to foster creativity and critical learning among their students." What does this mean? Teachers can use AI to supplement classroom instruction, as an interactive tool for students to explore concepts, or to provide personalized feedback and support.


Read more: Preparing High School Students for the Workforce


What are the benefits of utilizing AI in education?

AI's potential to transform education is vast and multilayered, presenting educators with unique opportunities to enhance the learning experience. As Dora Demszky, assistant professor of education data science at Stanford, suggests, "AI could serve as a springboard for genuine innovation, shifting the focus from mastering proficiency to encouraging deeper engagement and creative thinking among students."


Some key ways AI could benefit the future of education and the unique advantages it could bring to the classroom include:

  1. Enhancing personalized support for teachers at scale: AI could help refine teaching practices on a large scale. Stanford researchers suggest AI can simulate students for new teachers, provide real-time feedback and suggestions, and generate post-lesson reports that summarize classroom dynamics. Furthermore, AI could help teachers stay updated with the latest advancements in their field, leading to refreshed curriculums and up-to-date knowledge bases.
  2. Changing what's important for learners: AI could shift learning focus from proficiency to critical thinking, creativity, and ambition. As AI helps with writing and computation, students may not need to master these skills as thoroughly as before, thus raising the bar for their learning. Instead, they could focus on editing, curating, and understanding the basics, leading to deeper engagement.
  3. Enabling learning without fear of judgment: AI-powered tools could provide constructive feedback without judgment, allowing learners to be more open, take risks, and be vulnerable. Bias-free learning and critique are valuable to leveling the playing field.
  4. Improving learning and assessment quality: AI could help facilitate more robust classroom discussions and generate unique conversations with each student, leading to a better understanding of each learner's skills and recommending solutions to fill the gaps.


Read more: Comprehensive Solutions for Educators


What are the adverse effects of using AI in education?

While AI presents many promising benefits for education, it's vital also to consider potential drawbacks and challenges. The integration of AI in education, like in other sectors, isn't devoid of pitfalls. These potential issues could have significant implications for students and educators if not adequately addressed.


Let's delve into some of the potential negative effects of AI in education and consider how we might mitigate these challenges as we move towards a more technologically advanced educational landscape. These include:

  1. Lack of cultural diversity: Current AI language models may not accurately reflect the diversity of students or capture the authentic voices of diverse populations, leading to a lack of connection and safety for some learners.
  2. Non-optimal learning: AI models often aim to deliver answers as fast as possible, which may not align with pedagogically sound teaching methods.
  3. Incorrect responses: AI can sometimes produce coherent yet erroneous responses, misleading learners and impacting the quality of education.
  4. Motivation crisis: Students and educators alike question their skills, education, and future career prospects. They wonder, "If AI can do the job I'm studying or training for, what's the point of my efforts?"


AI's potential impact on schools in underserved communities

There is great interest in using AI to create more equitable learning opportunities for everyone, regardless of zip code. As we discuss this, it's crucial to remember that while technology has great potential, it also poses challenges, particularly regarding fair access and usage.


In schools facing overcrowding and teacher shortages, AI has the potential to play a transformative role. Here's how:

  1. Personalized learning: AI-driven platforms can provide customized learning experiences tailored to each student's needs and pace. This is especially beneficial in overcrowded classrooms where one teacher might need help to cater to the diverse needs of many students. By identifying and addressing gaps in understanding, AI can help ensure that no student falls through the cracks.
  2. Administrative efficiency: AI can automate many routine administrative tasks, allowing teachers to focus more on their primary duty - teaching. This could have profound benefits in schools where teacher shortages are a reality, maximizing educators' time on student interaction and instruction.
  3. Virtual teachers and tutors: AI-powered virtual teachers and tutors can provide additional instructional support, supplementing the work of human educators. While these tools can't replace human teachers, they can help bridge gaps in areas where qualified educators are scarce.
  4. Increased access: Online learning platforms and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) empowered by AI can bring high-quality education resources to remote and underserved areas. They can offer a range of courses that might not be otherwise available to these communities due to geographic or resource constraints.


However, it's essential to consider the potential challenges and risks associated with implementing AI in education in these contexts, including:

  1. Digital divide: There is a significant disparity in access to digital resources between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Students from low-income families might lack access to the necessary technology or have unreliable internet connectivity, limiting their ability to benefit from AI-driven learning tools.
  2. Privacy and data security: AI tools often collect and analyze vast amounts of data. This raises concerns about student privacy and data security, especially in underserved communities that may lack the resources to implement robust cybersecurity measures.
  3. Lack of human touch: While AI can augment the learning experience, it can't replace the human touch. In underserved communities, schools often serve as social support systems. Teachers do more than teach; they inspire, mentor, and support students in ways AI can't replicate.
  4. Depersonalization of education: Over-reliance on AI could lead to a depersonalized education system, where students become data points rather than individuals.


Addressing these challenges requires a thoughtful approach that considers each community's specific needs and constraints. This includes investing in necessary infrastructure, implementing safeguards for student data, providing training for educators, and integrating AI tools in ways that supplement rather than replace the vital role of human teachers. AI holds tremendous potential for improving education in underserved communities, but it's not a magic bullet. It should be part of a broader strategy to address systemic inequalities in the education system.


Read more: How English Language Learners Are Left Behind and What We Can Do About It


The future of AI in higher education

The impact of AI on higher education is vast and multifaceted.


"With the rising popularity of ChatGPT, many educators and administrators have trepidation toward the new technology, seeing it as a threat both to students and schools," says Dr. Shean. AI could aid in personalized instruction, offer real-time feedback to educators, and provide learners with a safe, judgment-free environment for exploration and growth.


However, potential misuse or overreliance on AI could disrupt the learning process. Cheating with AI is something educators struggle with right now. AI detection tools must be better, often flagging original content as AI-generated. Although detection tools exist to mitigate this issue, it's an ongoing concern.


The usage of AI in higher education is expanding rapidly, providing innovative solutions that are redefining the traditional educational landscape. Let's explore the ways educators and students use AI in the context of higher education.


Educators and AI in higher education

For educators, AI is a valuable tool that can assist in multiple facets of teaching. AI-driven platforms can automate routine tasks such as grading assignments and tests, freeing up valuable time for educators to focus on interactive sessions and personalized learning.


AI can also provide real-time feedback and suggestions to teachers during lessons, helping them optimize their teaching strategies. Post-lesson reports generated by AI can summarize classroom dynamics and offer insights into student engagement, assisting professors and TAs in adapting their methods based on individual learning styles.


AI's ability to simulate student behavior can be an innovative tool for teacher training. These virtual students can exhibit confusion, ask questions, and demonstrate understanding, providing new educators a safe space to practice and refine their teaching skills.


Lastly, AI can also help educators stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in their field. For instance, a biology professor could leverage AI to keep abreast of the latest genetic research developments or automatically update their curriculum based on recent breakthroughs.


Students and AI in higher education

Students in higher education stand to gain significantly from AI. With AI-powered learning management systems, students can enjoy a more personalized learning experience. These systems can adapt to the learning pace of each student, offering customized resources and assignments that best suit their learning style and progress.


AI can also support students with learning differences, providing tools and interfaces to cater to their needs. This creates an inclusive learning environment where all students can thrive.


Students can leverage AI to get instant feedback on their work, enabling them to improve continuously. They can use AI tools such as ChatGPT for research, drafting essays, and improving their writing skills. While the concern is that such tools might enable plagiarism or make tasks too easy, the idea is to use them to foster creativity, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.


Finally, AI can facilitate informal learning outside of the school curriculum. From language learning apps to coding platforms, AI-powered tools can help students acquire new skills in an engaging and interactive manner.


So, where do we go from here?

As AI continues to evolve, its role in academia will only become more significant. Both educators and students must understand and leverage this technology to enhance the learning experience and outcomes.


The integration of AI in education is undoubtedly a game-changer. It offers new ways to improve teaching and learning, making education more engaging and accessible. However, it's essential to address its associated risks to ensure it is an effective tool in education. As Dr. Shean suggests, we should embrace the rise of AI, not fear it, and work towards understanding how best to utilize it in our classrooms.


As we continue to explore AI's potential in education, it's crucial to approach it with an open mind. The goal is not to replace educators but to provide them with powerful tools to enhance the learning experience. And remember, while technology advances, human touch, empathy, and understanding will always remain vital to the educational journey.